Lakhs line up for 'women's wall' in Kerala

Thiruvananthapuram: A 620-km long "women's wall" that had the backing of the Kerala government was formed on Tuesday evening linking Kasargode in the north to Ayyanakali square near the Governor's residence in Thiruvananthapuram, with lakhs taking part.

So massive was the response to the women's chain that at some places two separate "walls" were formed to accommodate everyone.

Giving full support to the event was the ruling Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and the Left Democratic Front (LDF) which had vowed to gather five million women for the event.

Women from all walks of life stood on the side of the National Highway that runs from Kasargode to Thiruvananthapuram and took a pledge at 4 a.m. After standing for 15 minutes, the women dispersed.

Last month, amid the row over the Sabarimala pilgrimage, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan sent out invites to social groups and it was decided to form the "women wall" so that Kerala does not become "a lunatic asylum".

The other objective of the event was to promote gender equality.

At the northern end, the first on the line was Health Minister K.K. Shailaja. At the extreme south was CPI-M politburo member Brinda Karat.

Standing besides Karat were the wives of CPI-M leaders Kamala Vijayan (Pinarayi Vijayan), Vinodhini Balakrishnan (CPI-M state Secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan) and Vasumathi Achuthanandan (former Chief Minister V.S. Achuthanandan).

At a few places in Kasargode, the police had to use force to chase away people who had come to disrupt the women's wall. Women were seen running away and the attackers also took on the media personnel.

The CPI-M blamed the Sangh Parivar for the trouble.

Later, addressing a public meeting here, Karat congratulated the women of Kerala for creating history. "This wall is just not for Kerala but for all the women in the country."

Added Shailaja: "It has been a huge success from the way women participated."

Joining the human chain were women from all walks of life including from the film industry, writers and academics.

"This has got nothing to do with the entry of women into Sabarimala. That's a different issue. We came to take part because we wanted to send out the message of gender equality," a women who took part in Thrissur said.

But the Congress-led opposition condemned the 'women wall', saying it will only whip up communal passions.

"The wall was a failure as it did not have the participation in rural areas as compared to cities and towns," said Leader of Opposition Ramesh Chennithala. 

He alleged that government offices were virtually closed in the afternoon and educational institutions were given a holiday and those refusing to toe the line were threatened.

While the Nair Service Society (NSS), which represents the Hindu Nair community, had announced that they will not take part in the event, the SNDP Yogam - the social movement of the Hindu Ezhava community - took part in good numbers.

"We thank the Kerala government for allowing us to take part in this event as this is a record breaking event," said Preethi Natesan, wife of SNDP Yogam General Secretary Vellappallyi Natesan.

State BJP President P.S. Sreedharan Pillai said the event was a failure and a gross misuse of government resources.

"This wall reminds us of the Baltic chain that was formed in the erstwhile Soviet Union in 1989. Then the Soviet Union disintegrated. Communism in Kerala will go the same way," he said.

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